This is a VERY IMPORTANT ESSAY from Julian Long that was pointed out to me by a friend:
I do not much care for Blaxplaining the way the world works. I get emotionally exhausted trying to answer “why” questions that have no answer just to show empathy with you showing empathy with me. Blaxplaining makes my intestines itch.
I point out obvious things. Signs in the sky that indicate changing weather.
But I don’t often explain why the weather has changed.
I’m making an exception today, because there’s a darkening in the skies and, in the present context of 150 white men overtaking a federal building, I’m going to try and Blaxplain how this unrest sits with us with hope that some of you, who often read my words but don’t comment, don’t share and don’t “like” them (literally or figuratively) can explain to me what you think comes next.
In August of 2014, in a small suburb of St. Louis called #Ferguson , our nation sent The National Guard along with militarized police to squelch the protests of a few scores (that later grew to be hundreds) of citizens who were appalled at the grizzly murder of #MikeBrown. These protesters were largely Black, unarmed civilians. There was some property damage. The media continually called it rioting.
Dozens were arrested. Beaten. Pepper Sprayed. Shot with rubber bullets.
Some months later we pointed out how in a town in ––New Hampshire, I believe –– I dunno, someplace that just sounded really white, large groups of white unarmed civilians overturned cars, burned property, took to the streets over…pumpkins. The media called them revelers. The police were called but they didn’t bring their tanks.
It was whitesplained to us that this was different –– because it wasn’t a hot-button issue and likelihood of severe damage or loss of life was minimal. The Ferguson protests went on for DAYS, we were told – THATS why it had to come to the boiling point that it did.
We didn’t accept that. But we knew it would become the company line. Drawn in the blood on the pavement. Never to be crossed.
So then…Baltimore. #FreddieGray was given a “rough ride” that severed his spine. And the city went nuts. Students were beaten, corralled into a mall. The police leaked a false rumor about a “Purge” that they were supposedly defending against and so militarized police were called in. Again too, the National Guard. We saw images. Stark, powerful images –– of a man thrown by his dreadlocks to the ground, pepper sprayed in the face for literally doing NOTHING. We saw a gleeful cop flash a Kool-Aid smile to the camera as he tackled this Black man,like a big game hunter after he’d just sniped a lion with a scope on a high-powered rifle from 300 yards away. But no. Can’t be that. We cry for lions. We mourn fallen lions. (#RIPCecil)
There were other images too.
The news machine showed us all a burned out, gutted CVS –– quick to point out the property damage that must be prevented and how the situation had become so unmanageable. The less popular flipside was the group of Black people cleaning up the wreckage. Rebuilding their neighborhood. Guess it didn’t have the same sense of urgency. I can’t put it all on the media though. We learned from Ferguson that when faced with having their agenda exposed, cops had no qualms with illegally arresting journalists who were showing things they didn’t want people to see and taking down the camera equipment of some journalists when they were videotaping their questionable actions. It’s possible that the same happened here and that journalist had learned to B-More careful. But still some powerful images got through.
There was a sister. The prototypical definition of SISTA with her wrapped locks and white frock. She was all things that “everything” means – burning sage as she walked past what she recognized as evil spirits. She was awesome. She was light. But she was not shown in the broad media.
The media instead chose to turn its lens and mic to the mother who humiliated her child and squashed his spirit of righteous outrage. Slapping his head and condemning his presence in the protest. She became an urban hero. It was a complex scene to watch unfold because for us –– because we got it –– she feared for his life. All of us fear for our young people’s lives when it comes to encounters with law enforcement. This has been the status quo for literally CENTURIES. It’s only becoming a norm to you now. So, yes that fear makes you want to snatch up your kid and protect them and admonish them at the same time ––just as if they’d run out into the street without checking for the car that was barring straight toward them. Or if they’d played with a loaded gun–or a toy that looked like one. We understood HER reaction. What made many of us mad was YOURS.
You took a certain pride in watching him get shut down. In gleefully cheering her on for setting him straight. Without knowing a thing about her or him or the circumstances of the conversation between them you declared that there needed to be more mothers like this! Good for her! Some of you reached back into your knapsack of 90’s relevance and said, “You go girl!” and otherwise liberal-minded, good people who don’t approve of hitting children were quick to make an exception. It was as if she was doing what you all wished you could do – knock some sense into that boy and tell him to sit down when authority was talking.
And fuck…the media lens and the national spotlight is a helluva drug. So Lioness became Tiger Mom and followed the narrative. It was a juicy story. Much more so than the frighteningly efficient disappearing of #JosephKent. So, that was the image we saw. Juicy and benign and reinforcing the narrative that makes rebellion look silly and condemnable.
Many of you justified your defense of the Ferguson and Baltimore military occupations (let’s dispense with the niceties shall we? –– we know what this is) with the same tired tropes about, property damage, respect for authority and the ever ironic “respect for life”. We were told that this is the system. This is how it works. These people were breaking the law.
“When you break the law these things happen.”
Ok. Hold that thought.
I’m gonna need it in a minute.
Because when a pool party in Texas went south and a cop rubbed his groin on a 15 year old girl before shoving his knee in her back in a supine position we were to understand that this was the law at work and that dag-nab-it we just had to realize there are certain things you don’t do to the cops…
…those “things” apparently don’t include marauding around on motorcycles and KILLING people (with real live guns) because the biker gang in Texas that did that was told to quietly sit on the curb with their cell phones while it was all sorted out.
Our 12 year old boys are given 2 seconds before 4 rounds are fired into their bellies because the fake gun was perceived as a threat. Your 21 year old men are given two cheeseburgers to fill their bellies after they kill 9 people at Bible study. But let’s be honest. Dylan Roof DID NOT pose a threat to those police. He ONLY hated Black people. Those white officers felt safe as can be because he was a just ‘disturbed kid’. But Tamir could not be distinguished from a man.
But “when you break the law, these things happen,” right?
So last night an armed militia took over an Oregon Federal building.
ABC called it a “protest” and then an “action”–– which isn’t saying much (and is misrepresenting what little it says) ––but it says a HELLUVA lot more than anyone else is saying. Images are powerful stimulants. They wake up the senses and stir the nerves. They are absent here. And the present narrative seems to skew toward understanding the intent and not condemning the action. Coverage is sparse yet oddly sympathetic.
But…as of this typing no militarized force has been called…
..to a FEDERAL building…
…Occupied by 150 ARMED men…
…Who don’t recognize the government.
History has explained to us that we probably won’t hear words like “Domestic Terrorists” here, though The Black Lives Matter movement has. We probably won’t see a bloodbath, a tear-gassing or even a knee in a back.
History tells us that they’ll probably be negotiated with. They’ll be extracted peacefully. They’ll be painted as something other than lawless trouble makers. The effort will be on understanding WHY they took action not condemning the action they took.
And this. All of this –– this stark and glaring contrast is why we keep “making it so difficult” for us all to get along.
It’s why we keep “focusing on what makes us different instead of what makes us the same.” Because our difference aren’t about our skin. It’s about how our skin is valued.
It’s why we seek spaces of our own and demand sanctuary from your constant observation. Because your observation of us is intense and critical while the reflexive observation is loose and forgiving
It’s why we keep demanding “special treatment” because you’re all Charlie but there are no over-layed flags for any of the nations Isis has touched in Africa.
We point out the differences and eschew fallacies of “equality” because the current model of “equal treatment” means our unarmed protests are met with tanks while yours are met with negotiators, our “kids being kids” are shown their lives have no value while yours are treated to a value meal, our social justice warriors are made “terrorists” while your terrorists are simply labeled misunderstood. And we keep being told to that this is how the system works. What makes us different is that when “the system works” on us –– it works us over. It beats us, bloodies us, and kills us. What makes us different is our signs of peace is met with the same or more brutal responses as your acts of war. What makes us different is we keep blogging tweeting about how we want change and we keep seeing you blog about wishing things would go back to normal –– when “normal” includes our kids having the police called on them when they are walking home from school or being shot by a madman with a neighborhood watch issued license to kill. Much like 70 degree Christmases This aberration in the climate has somehow become “normal” and we’re trying to tell you –– something is dreadfully wrong. The sky is falling.
I don’t like to Blaxplain things, but this is why the weather has changed. The ongoing warm front of hot air from above has collied with the socio-economic pressure system from below and is creating a volatile storm system that is likely to break at any moment.
You are now experiencing what we have lived with for a long time. The forbidding formations in the in the sky that indicate that it’s not safe out here.
We keep being shown that violent, outrageous protests lead to decidedly delicate treatment from the authorities. We keep being shown that armed might is and must be respected – that secret wars and personal vendettas and organized forces with weapons and agendas get the benefit of being treated like humans while people with placards and megaphones are taken down like dogs. And we keep being told that this is how the system works. We keep being told to trust the system. Follow the system. Be aligned to the system.
So what comes next? What happens when this cloud finally bursts?
Explain that to me.